INTERVIEW | Anoop Bhat
Photo Credit: Vandana Dhruva Kumar
Often the best types of interviews are the ones that come from casual conversation. We were commenting on the wonderful press that Indian band Diarchy was currently getting out in the West, specifically coverage in the much-lauded bible of all things metal – Metal Hammer. A magazine that we’ve been reading ourselves here in Hong Kong since the 80’s!
The conversation around this wonderful piece of news was with Diarchy’s manager, Anoop Bhat – someone whose artistry we’ve admired for years and interviewed back in 2016. (Click here for that article!)
Anoop Bhat’s T-shirt design for envy. So DOPE!
We were discussing the awesome amount of press that Indian metal bands, in general, get in Western media. Anoop had so much insight and absolute gold to share based on his experiences and lessons navigating the music “industry” both with his own art and now with Diarchy, that we suggested turning our conversation into a full-blown interview.
We appreciate the candidness in his answers and his willingness to allow us to publish this conversation!
Check out the full conversation below!
It’s so cool to see Indian metal bands get recognized in media such as Metal Hammer! I don’t know many metal bands from other Asian countries that get that much press in these massive magazines.
Thanks dude. We’re quite chuffed ourselves, the fact that the album is being heard all across the globe and more importantly by people who get the music is more than one could’ve asked for.
As for coverage, it all comes down to PR really and Diarchy is super grateful to have a label (Unherd.Music) and PR agency (Sheltered Life) back it, which makes this possible. Diarchy’s PR is exclusively handled by Richard Jones from Sheltered Life PR, as with all bands signed to Unherd.Music. We’ve been in touch with Richard for a better part of over a year and a half, way before the new album dropped. Richard’s been working continuously behind-the-scenes making sure the band’s music reaches every significant and/or influential voice in heavy music. He’s a super nice dude and comes with a loaded portfolio. He’s worked with some of our favorite bands like Monolord, Elder, Elephant Tree, The Heavy Eyes, Valley of the Sun, Geezer, We Hunt Buffalow, etc. We couldn’t recommend him enough.
Sheltered Life PR is an independent music and media PR company based in Bristol, England. We provide imaginative PR, marketing and professional support to signed/unsigned bands, artists, record labels, venues, event organisers and promoters across the world.
Totally – all well deserved! It’s just interesting that a LOT of Indian metal bands get the same support from Western media. They seem to be received well in the West. It’s just so amazing.
It’s PR pretty much. The bands you speak of have all used a PR agency, hence have reached these bigger magazines. Not everyone can afford it and there isn’t much awareness and hence the big gap, in my opinion. It’s also seen as a very un-metal, un-punk thing to do.
Right – from my perspective of observing through the Unite Asia lense – where I haven’t many other Asian bands get the same attention, the idea of using a PR agency is an interesting concept.
Yeah, basically most music writers (i.e music writers that write for these big websites or magazines) only trust their PR channels – a big reason for that (when you see if from their point of view) is time, convenience and a certain understanding that its good stuff – because even the PR agencies, the good ones, are only signing up bands that they believe can be pushed. You know what I’m saying? In Asia, the only PR agency I know is Qabar and they’ve got some good placements and they even work with bands from the West (although it started to promote Asian bands).
Revitalizing the Extreme Music from the Hollow of Grave.
Based in South Asia and Germany, Qabar PR has actively been working with independent bands and labels around the world.
For Western media it’s always been about who you know. Connections connections connections.
Yeah but it’s getting more and more important for bands to hire PR to reach proper audiences. It’s worth it and when you think about it almost essential to make sure the stuff you’ve put so much heart and soul in gets at least heard by the fans of the genre.
That makes sense for sure especially if you’re a band that wants to do something in the West and thus needs to get exposure out there. But then I can also see how bands who aren’t that interested in it just stick to regional media.
It’s different for different bands and by no way is hiring PR a guaranteed way of getting press. Yes, sure it’s meant to have greater access but then it’s just that. Stuff still gets picked up only if it’s good. Also, it’s not so much about the press itself than it is for creating a certain awareness of the band. Diarchy wishes to tour Europe in the coming years, this more or less is foundational work to make sure there’s some demand, some awareness.
It’s totally true that the way the world works is that it’s not enough that you’re a good band. You have to have the right team behind you. So Diarchy and so many other Indian metal bands are lucky bastards!
There’s nothing in it for me more than the satisfaction of trying to see and make this work. No way I think I know any more than anyone else but have just learned a few things here and there working (on art side) with bands from outside and just my general curiosity of how things work – and why it works for some and not others, especially in the heavier department. Just trying to apply some of it with Diarchy and see how it goes.
When did you decide to try out managing bands and provide that service on TOP of all your amazing art design skills?
I’ve always been interested in what goes into the working of a band and having exposed myself to how most bands/labels went about it in the west – bands I’ve had the pleasure of working with or I’ve generally followed work of – I’d see that and then look at the bands in India and just get riled over how wrong we’d got it. It’s 2020 and folks still think all an artist manager does is book shows, which to be honest doesn’t even come under the purview of a manager but it’s something managers in the country have had to take up given the ecosystem.
I decided to take it up seriously sometime in early 2018. I’d been toying around with the idea for the longest time but I wasn’t ever confident about doing it. I still don’t make a lot of noise about it. I tossed the idea to Prakash and Gaurav from Diarchy and they seemed to be very interested and in fact truly believed that I would have certainly had a lot to offer and the inputs I had at the time, were valid. I’m still grateful for their trust. I do not have the bandwidth to take up more bands and hence it’s just Diarchy and it’ll probably remain that way for the longest time. I want to see how far I can take this.
“You know it’s so strange because the Asian scene is bustling with good music, especially the emoviolence, hardcore/punk and metal stuff is actually way better than the regular stuff that comes out of Europe or US. But it frustrates me that it doesn’t get a wider audience. Of course, the attention given to underground Asian bands hasn’t been greater but.. it’s barely scratching the surface. It’ll change perhaps but yeah, it frustrates me.”
Oh shit! You’ve been doing this for two years already? I didn’t realize that! Diarchy was the first band you took on?
And was it a steep learning curve was it because you already established contacts that you were able to jump in right away?
To be honest, I’m still learning new things every passing week. There were a few things that came in easy; stuff like giving the band’s identity a total revamp, redoing the press kit, establishing a veritable online presence, deciding on immediate goals, etc – things I’ve done with my own freelance business. I was for the longest time under the impression, we’ll have a booking agent on board and in fact, even approached a few people who I thought were doing great work and could help. Nobody had the bandwidth or they just weren’t interested. I had to take up that role as well and that meant approaching venues, promoters, organizers, and making contact with people I never had in the past, following up, building a database, and just constantly going at it.
Absolutely! I mean the passion for this is literally exploding out of you just in your answers, so I can safely say that the Diarchy guys are probably lucky to have you doing this behind the scenes! Stuff that they probably didn’t even know they needed to do in order to get better exposure.
I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a trained artist manager i.e I don’t have any formal training nor do I have any experience doing this stuff. So st most times, I’m figuring things out as we go. The fact that Diarchy encourages this and believes in me is what I’m most grateful for.
Anoop displaying a killer tour poster he created for Indian post-rock band aswekeepsearching.
With what you’ve learned, experienced with promoting your own art and now Diarchy, what are a few things you wished bands just knew to do? With running Unite Asia for the past 5 years I can rattle off a few things myself hahahahaha…but would love to hear what you’ve noticed.
A lot of this is pretty much standard stuff, in fact even super basic but a lot of them still don’t get it and it beats me.
1. Invest in yourself.
Be it band photographs, logos, album artwork, videos, PR, any of those things – invest in yourself such that what you have out there is the best version of yourself and not a mere compromise. Yes, it could be expensive. Wait it out, as long as it takes and save up. You don’t have to rush anything. As callous or shallow as it may seem, first impressions matter. You only get one chance to make an impression, don’t act in haste. Budgets are always limited, so identifying what departments have a greater return that aligns with your immediate goals is important. Be smart about it.
Indonesian band Deathroned. Dope band photo.
2. Set goals.
Yes, every band out there is in it to make it big in their own way but it’s always nice to sit and set some immediate goals. While there’s no limit to how ambitious one could be, setting smaller, yearly goals and achieving them from time to time keeps a band focussed and gives everything they do, a definite purpose. Mindless promotion without a definitive goal will achieve absolutely nothing.
3. Build a press kit.
This is common knowledge but it’s still something most bands miss out on. A press kit doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s a great way to capture s band’s lifework into a neat little document. Make sure it has the latest band bio (short & long), updated band contact info, a neat photo of the band, links to press, online videos, and everything you want to be known about the band.
4. Have a consistent, updated online presence.
You could choose to have a website or multiple social media accounts or both, just make sure it’s consistent and updated at all times. It should look like it belongs to the same band. The intention is to make sure anyone who comes to your page or website – be it a listener, promoter, a music writer, a label, whoever – does not go back without finding what he or she came for. This could be contact info, music links, store link, release info, anything.
5. Be courteous, write better e-mails.
Being courteous is probably a trait that’s most important but funnily enough, most ignored. I can’t stress this enough but take a good time writing your e-mails or any communication that leaves the band’s channels. Let it never come across as half-assed or lazy – personalize your e-mails, make it sound genuine, and keep it succinct.
6. Build friendships.
Again, I don’t understand how this isn’t common knowledge but probably the best way to network and build relationships is by actually treating the other person as a person and not bombarding them with links and/or page invites. Be genuine, talk to people, interact the way you would with your friends, and just be a chill human being. Look beyond and concentrate on building well-meaning friendships than just scoring a quick like and/or follow.
Of course, there are lots more things to cover but these are some of the important ones I could think of, at the moment. These aren’t sure-shot ways of success or exposure but it is, in a way, making sure you’ve done your part and that you, as a band, have taken care of everything that you should have.
So now that you’ve killed it with Diarchy are you looking at picking up other bands? What’re your criteria?
No, I don’t think so. At least, not at the moment. I’m currently doing freelance illustration full-time, trying to put together an architecture/design firm with my wife, and doing this on the side. It’s a lot as is, but it keeps me going, keeps me driven. I wouldn’t want to take something up and not do it right. Also, I’m not making a living out of it so I’d just like to concentrate on Diarchy and see how far I could take this. It started with me applying my own learnings to a band but it’s now become more than that. I have a certain vision for the band and I want to see the band through it.
Awesome man – any last words?
I truly believe that no band, especially an underground hardcore/punk or metal band, needs a manager. If you’re ready to do everything yourself, learn a few things on the go and dedicate time to actually running the band, other than the music and your day job – you shouldn’t. In fact, some of the biggest bands don’t have one. It isn’t an essential thing, it’s a bonus and the other thing about it is, something I feel very strongly about, let a manager find you and not the other way round. For a manager to do right by you and believe in your music as much as you do (or maybe even more), it needs to come from an earnest place. In that, it can’t be a true service unless the manager believes in the music of the band he or she’s managing.
Anoop Bhat is a phenomenal pen and ink illustrator from Bangalore (India) and mostly draws poster art, album covers and such for bands from around the world. He has drawn for bands as diverse as Opeth, Anathema, Envy, Mono, A Place To Bury Strangers, Conan, Nadja, Crowhurst, Wang Wen (惘闻), Death By Fungi, Jugaa and so on. Besides art and illustration work, he also does graphic design work: CD/vinyl/tape layouts, merch mock-ups, press kits, social media adapts, and such.
If you’re looking for artwork done, we couldn’t suggest working with Anoop enough. You can contact him at the following email address and check out any of his work in the links below: [email protected]